The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has scheduled a meeting for Jan. 27 to draw lessons from representatives of the six states that currently have laws in place requiring seat belts on school buses.
During a November announcement that called for three-point, lap-shoulder belts on all buses nationwide, NHTSA Administrator Dr. Mark Rosekind said he would be seeking input from the governors of California, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York and Texas regarding their laws and each respective state’s experiences in implementing them. Rosekind added during his remarks that he also wanted to hear recommendations from a local school district in each state with seat belt experience as to how NHTSA could “best start a nationwide movement.”
Apparently, the upcoming meeting will be closed to the public. NHTSA had yet to respond to a request for confirmation on the meeting at this writing, but the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services addressed a letter to Rosekind on Thursday, offering to assist with the meeting.
“NASDPTS understands and agrees that there is no direct role for us or other groups in this focused, ‘six states’ meeting. Nevertheless, we are available and anxious to assist the agency in school bus safety initiatives, so we would encourage follow-up meetings with NHTSA and its staff as the agency develops and implements its specific plans to implement your priorities,” wrote NASDTPS President Leon Langley, the state director of transportation at the Maryland State Department of Education.
Langley added in his letter that NHTSA is available to assist NHTSA with “renewed efforts” to increase the safety of students who are waiting for their school buses as well as during loading and unloading.
Last month, the National Association for Pupil Transportation and the National School Transportation Association jointly expressed concern in a letter to NHTSA about the call for seat belts on all school buses. The organizations agree that, while they are not opposed to seat belts, they stressed that any mandate on the occupant restraints should wholly rely on scientific data and must not result in school districts cutting transportation service because of any budget shortfalls that may arise from being forced to purchase and install the equipment.
NAPT and NSTA also expressed worry that students may not correctly wear the seat belts and that the restraints could impede evacuation in the event of an emergency.
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